The Malta Independent 19 June 2021, Saturday

PN calls for resignation of planning board members who recused themselves from City Centre decision

Thursday, 10 June 2021, 19:22 Last update: about 8 days ago

The Nationalist Party has condemned the recusal of five members of the Planning Authority’s Board minutes before a meeting on one of the most controversial planning projects in a generation came up for debate.

Board chairman Vince Cassar, ERA chairman Victor Axiak, NGO representative Annick Bonello, and Joseph Brincat recused themselves from the sitting on the massive City Centre project which was proposed on the former ITS site in Pembroke.  Lawyer Chris Cilia also recused himself because of a potential professional conflict of interest.

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The project was, despite 17,000 objections from the public, approved by the remaining seven board members, with four voting in favour, and three against.

The PN said that while it is in favour of people declaring when they have a conflict of interest, they condemned how this had been done at the last minute before the meeting to take the final decision on the project began.

They said that an authority is there because there are experts within it who need to make competent decisions, but lamented that it cannot be that when the hour comes, these same experts abdicate from their responsibilities.

“What happened continues to eat away at this board’s credibility when it comes to deciding on projects of a certain scale which will leave an impact on the environment and the residents in surrounding areas”, the party said.

It is for this reason that the PN called for the resignation of the board members who recused themselves from this vote.

“The PN is now more than ever determined to find an equal balance between development and our country’s environment and will soon be putting forward proposals on how the Planning Authority should start to function and act in the interest of the common good, with environment and planning amongst the main principles”, the party said.

It added that it is determined to introduce good governance and reform the existing planning system so that development safeguards those around them as well.

The party however stopped short from giving its verdict on whether the City Centre project itself should have been approved or not.

Instead it simply stated that PN spokesperson David Thake and Nationalist mayors for the localities of St. Julian’s and Swieqi were present at the meeting to “defend the residents’ interests.”

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